On a Volé la Cuisse de Jupiter (1980)

vt Jupiter’s Thigh
France / 101 minutes / color / Ariane, Mondex, F.R.3 Dir: Philippe de Broca Pr: Alexandre Mnouchkine, Georges Dancigers, Robert Amon Scr: Michel Audiard Based on: characters created in the Commissaire Tanquerelle books by Jean-Paul Rouland and Claude Olivier Cine: Jean-Paul Schwartz Cast: Annie Girardot, Philippe Noiret, Francis Perrin, Catherine Alric, Marc Dudicourt, Paulette Dubost, Roger Carel, Anna Gaylor, Gabriel Cattand, Philippe Brizard, Nikos Tsachiridis, Nikos Dafnis, Vassilis Colovos (i.e., Vasilis Kolovos), Alexandre Mnouchkine

Tendre Poulet (1977; vt Dear Inspector; vt Dear Detective) was one of my favorite movies watched in 2019, so naturally I had very high hopes for this, its sequel. Well, the good news is that On a Volé la Cuisse de Jupiter is really very amusing; the bad news is that it’s not a patch on its predecessor, I think because it’s self-consciously a screwball comedy involving crime rather than a crime movie with a wonderful sense of humor.

Annie Girardot as Lise

The puzzling news is that there’s not the slightest reference to the thigh of Jupiter (“la cuisse de Jupiter”) in the movie. According to a commenter on the Word Reference forum,

The god [Dionysius] was said to be born out of Jove’s leg. Se croire sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter means to believe that you are someone much more important than the others, like the son of the greatest of gods. It’s a set expression in French, and very derogatory toward the one who believes this about himself.

That doesn’t seem quite to fit either: it’d mean the title translated as something like “Someone has stolen the source of the bee’s knees.” There’s a little twist right at the end of the movie that this might refer to, but it’s a bit of a stretch.

Whatever: The underpinning of the movie is archeology, and the artifact that spurs the plot is a piece of statuary—not Jupiter’s thigh but Aphrodite’s buttocks. The object’s dug up on the (seemingly fictional) Greek island of Heraklios by eager archeologist Charles-Hubert Pochet (Perrin). Lise Tanquerelle (Girardot) and Antoine Lemercier (Noiret), the principals of the previous movie, just happen to be there on their honeymoon, and so naturally get drawn into the ensuing saga.

Philippe Noiret as Antoine, in disguise

Just as the astonishing hotness of Catherine Alric’s character, Christine Vallier, was the root cause of all the trouble in the previous movie, it kicks off the plot here . . . even though this time she’s playing the part of numbskull Charles-Hubert’s wife Agnès. Once again she’s seemingly unaware of the effect her scantily clad body might have on passing males; once again she has an innocent delight in sex.

Catherine Alric as Agnès

In this movie, everyone assumes she’s having an affair with sturdy Greek boatman Aristote/Aristotle Serakis (Dafnis), and certainly he’s infatuated with her. With her connivance he steals the marble buttocks—although not in order to sell them but simply to get them valued by an expert, Hermann von Blankenberg (an uncredited Alexandre Mnouchkine, one of the movie’s producers).

What the two conspirators don’t know is that von Blankenberg’s a crook, part of an international art-smuggling gang.

Francis Perrin as Charles-Hubert

Aristote/Aristotle is murdered, his throat slit by von Blankenberg’s crazed hitman, Stéphano (Tsachiridis), and Charles-Hubert and Antoine are assumed by Greek cop André Spiratos (Dudicourt) to be the killers. Soon enough our four main characters—Lise, Antoine, Agnès and Charles-Hubert—are on the lam. They learn from an old friend of Antoine’s, museum curator Zacharias (Carel), that the buttocks are merely a section of a complete statue. Needless to say, von Blankenberg and his crew are intent on collecting the whole piece, including the feet—currently resident in a remote monastery.

Nikos Dafnis as Aristote/Aristotle

There are lots of funny lines and incidents. The one that perhaps made me grin the most came when Lise’s mom (Dubost), seeing Lise off on her honeymoon, tells her that her own honeymoon was a great success because it rained the whole time. There was also the quarrel between Charles-Hubert and Agnès over the future of the antiquity he’s dug up. Agnès is focused on its monetary value, Charles-Hubert on the glory:

Charles-Hubert: “Just think, I’ll be the one who discovered Aphrodite’s buttocks.”

Agnès’s response is obvious, and hilarious:

“Well, you’d better choose between Aphrodite’s buttocks and your wife’s.”

Marc Dudicourt as Spiratos

Alexandre Mnouchkine as von Blankenberg

Nikos Tsachiridis as crazed killer Stéphano

As you’ll have guessed, the humor in this movie is somewhat more ribald than in Tendre Poulet (the language is spicier too), and I’m not sure this was a good ploy on the part of the moviemakers. One of the joys of Tendre Poulet was that, even though the underpinning of its plot concerned sexuality, it was all done with such an air of innocence that no one outside the evangelist freakshow would have been too bothered had the movie been granted a U rating.

You can’t say the same of On a Volé la Cuisse de Jupiter. It’s by no means out-and-out raunchy, but it’s definitely a comedy for grown-ups and with inoffensive but more than fleeting nudity. Catherine Alric, through sheer charm (and despite being the one who’s more than fleetingly nude), manages to retain the Tendre Poulet balance, despite the script, but the rest of the movie doesn’t.

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